The Best Way to Learn German

By OptiLingo • 11 minute read

You can learn German by yourself with the help of this guide

You Can Learn German By Yourself

It’s not witchcraft. It’s just putting new knowledge in your brain and keeping it there. That puts it simply. But, the reality is, learning German isn’t as hard as its reputation warns. And, if you know the best tips and tricks on how to learn German, it will be a fast and fun process. And fun is what it’s all about. Use these practical steps to discover the best way to learn German by yourself.

Is German Hard to Learn?

Not in the slightest. Of course, once you’re fluent, you have total bragging rights about having learned a language. It’s an impressive achievement. But, you don’t need blood, tears, and sweat to get there.

German is very closely related to English. They’re in the same language family called West Germanic. The two languages share common words, sentence structures, and an extremely similar alphabet. So, since you already know English, learning German by yourself won’t be hard at all.

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  1. It teaches you useful words and phrases.
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  3. Spaced out over time, so you absorb your new language organically.
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How Long Does It Take to Learn German?

If we could tell you how long it takes to learn a language, we’d be running a factory, not a language learning app. The fact is, it depends on a lot of things. What kind of learner you are, what your native language is, and what resources you use matters. These can either slow you down or fast track your fluency.

But, if you insist, we can give you a number. The US Foreign Service Institute categorized every language according to their difficulty. Based on how far the language is from English, they assigned approximate times for how long it takes to learn them. For German, they estimate 30 weeks or 750 hours of study. Thanks to how closely related German is to English, it takes a relatively short time to learn it.

But, this estimate doesn’t account for your motivation, your enthusiasm, or the quality of your resources. So, please, take the numbers with a grain of salt. Steady practice every day will get you there. Stop counting your steps, and look up to the finish line.

This is the best way to learn how to learn German

10 Steps to Show You How to Learn German

These practical steps can guide you to German fluency. While you still need to do most of the works, these tips to learn German will make the journey easier. Having the right strategies lets you achieve German fluency much faster. And you can definitely do it by yourself.

1. Use Cheap German Resources

Learning a language can often cost a pretty penny. If you join a language class or a University course, be prepared for some potential college debt. Similarly, hiring a private tutor is a great resource, but you have to pay for their time and expertise. Luckily, there are cheap and free ways to learn German. Here are some common resources that don’t ask you to sell your kidney:

  • Download an app: The easiest and often the cheapest resource to learn German is with an app. Keep your lessons conveniently in your pocket, and study from anywhere in the world. Make sure you choose an app that focuses on speaking, not typing a language.
  • Buy a German textbook: If you’re worried about German grammar, a good German textbook can help with that. They have explanations and exercises to practice. Although some may think books are old fashioned, textbooks are a great tool to complement your studies.
  • Join an online course: There are a few great online courses that you can join that won’t cost you a lot of money.
  • Learn with a friend: If someone you know also wants to learn German, learning together can really boost your studies. Use these study partners to practice German and motivate you until you reach fluency.

2. Master the Sounds of the German Alphabet

The German alphabet is extremely similar to English. It uses Latin letters, so that’s a great advantage you already have. The only thing you have to learn about the German alphabet is the pronunciation of the letters. Some of them are quite different from English. But, they’re like that every time. Unlike English, German pronunciation works exactly like you’re reading it. With some pronunciation practice, you’ll surely master it.

Here are the German letters you need to look out for. These have a different pronunciation in German than in English:

  • C: ts, it’s the same sound as “z”.
  • G: always a hard “g”
  • I: more like the English “e”
  • J: soft “j”, like “yak”
  • S: sometimes it’s like the English “s”, but very often it’s more like the English “z” (the only exception is when the “s” is followed by either a “p” or a “t”. Then, the pronunciation is the same as “sch” or “sh”: Stadt (city), später (later))
  • V: “v” in German is always pronounce
  • W: this is more like the English “v” in pronunciation. It’s a hard “v”, not a double “u”
  • Z: always ts, the same as “c”

Master the sounds of German

3. Speak German From Day 1

The only way you’ll reach fluency is by speaking. Practicing every day is how you get used to the sounds of the language. And by creating those sounds yourself, you’ll also gain the confidence needed to talk to German locals when the time comes. So, make sure you always say the German words you’re learning out loud.

A lot of language learners are afraid to speak when they start out. Fearing embarrassment, they postpone their speaking practice. And yes, you’ll definitely mess up and mispronounce words. But, that’s ok. You need to make this mistakes to progress. Pretty soon, you’ll speak perfectly in German, and you’ll realize that worrying at the beginning is silly.

4. Focus on the Most Common German Words

There’s no point in learning unnecessary German words and phrases. How many times will you use “the bear drinks beer?” when you’re in Germany. (OK, to be fair, that does sound like something a German would say). Instead, you should focus on the vocabulary real Germans use. Mastering the words and phrases from everyday expressions is the best way to learn German.

But, naturally, real Germans know a LOT of German words. So, how can you master them all? Seems impossible if you look at it that way. A lot of German people don’t realize that they barely use their vast vocabulary in everyday conversations. They use 20% of the words they know for 80% of what they say. It’s true, it’s called the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20. And that’s your key to learning German in record time.

If you only learn that 20%, you can already talk about most things in German. Now, you may wonder how you can get your hands on the list of German vocabulary that contains that exact 20% you’re looking for.

Well, lucky for you, you’re already here. And you’re just a step away from getting all those useful German words and phrases. All you have to do is download the OptiLingo app too access this precious knowledge.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of German Grammar

German grammar certainly has a reputation. You may think it’s full of complicated rules, irregularities, and exceptions. But, the fact is, German grammar is fairly easy. There aren’t a lot of exceptions. When you learn a German grammar rule, you know it for life. So, the best way to learn German grammar is to stop worrying about it and start reading about the rules.

There are a lot of things you should know about German grammar. But, the most important features are easy to establish. Here’s a quick summary of the parts of German grammar, so you know how to learn it well:

  • German nouns are capitalized.
  • There are three genders in German: masculine (der), feminine (die), and neuter (das).
  • Die is the article for every plural noun.
  • German conjugation: Since German has three genders, articles, adjectives, and pronouns need to be conjugated to fit the noun. This is called declension. These declensions need to fit the gender, number, and case of the noun.
  • German uses cases to identify the function of a word in a sentence. The four cases in German are:
    • nominative: when the word is the subject.
    • accusative: when the word is the direct object.
    • dative: when the word is the indirect object.
    • genitive: when the word is possessive.
  • German verbs need to be conjugated to fit the person, which can happen in six different ways.

6. Use Spaced Repetition for the Best Way to Learn German

Spaced repetition is the key to remembering your lessons. Have you ever noticed that your brain always forgets? You learn something on one day, and you’ll forget most of it by the next. Well, this trick will keep your knowledge in your head permanently. Spaced repetition is a way to train your long term memory on how to learn German.

Once you finish a German lesson, you need to go back to review it after a couple of days. Periodically reviewing your material enforces its importance to your brain. And after a while, you’ll find that you can remember all of your lessons perfectly. With a faster recall time, you’ll surely achieve effective German fluency.

7. Immerse Yourself in German at Home

Immersion is a great way to learn the language. The most you hear German, the more you’ll understand. So, it’s best to surround yourself with German every day to make the most of your studies. Luckily, you won’t even need to fly to German to experience immersion. You can have a cheap and comfortable immersion from home with any of these activities:

  • Watch German films and TV: Watching TV in German is great practice. You can hear authentic German and discover useful words and phrases. Not to mention learning about modern German culture. For the best exercise, try to repeat what the actors and presenters say.
  • Listen to German podcasts: If you want an intensive listening exercise, tune in to a German podcast. There’s definitely some online that you’ll enjoy.
  • Read German news: German news and media are very reliable. You can stay informed while learning to read German.
  • Learn about German culture: The rich history and the fascinating people certainly add up to an interesting country full of traditions. Today, Germany’s art scene is booming. Discover the religion, art, and everyday culture of German people to motivate your studies.

8. Practice German Every Day

The best way to learn German is with consistent practice. Sit down every day to learn a little bit more, or to review your previous day’s lesson. Luckily, you don’t need to take a lot of time out of your regular day. 20 minutes/day already provides great results when you’re learning a foreign language.

You can also combine activities to get chores done and learn German at the same time. Listen to some German music while you’re cleaning. Tune in to a German podcast in the gym. Or learn about verb conjugation on your commute. All these little activities add up.

The best way to learn German is with lots of practice

9. It’s OK to Make Mistake When You’re Learning German

With all the different genders, grammar rules, and pronunciation differences, it’s easy to make mistakes. And you’ll definitely make some. And again, let me repeat, it’s ok to make mistakes. The sooner you learn that the sooner you’ll defeat language learning anxiety.

Bottom line is, you’re learning a whole new language. You’re training your brain to understand reality in a different way. And that’s an awesome achievement. No one can take that away from you. So, no German will ever make fun of you if you make a mistake. You’re putting in the effort to learn their language, so they’ll help you whenever they can.

10. Download the Best App to Learn German

Of course, completing all these steps to learn a language is not easy work. But, it’s worth it. And, if you want to make your German studies a little bit easier, there’s always OptiLingo.

OptiLingo is an app that combines all of these practical steps into one convenient app. It gives you the most common German words and phrases, so you learn exactly how real locals speak. OptiLingo also focuses on speaking. You’ll build your speaking confidence every day.

And, best of all, OptiLingo has built-in spaced repetition in its program. So, you’re also guaranteed to remember your lesson. If you’re interested in learning German, check out how OptiLingo works today!